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Web Design and Web Development Blog from Webilicious in Tasmania

Joomla On-site SEO in 7 Easy Steps

To complete on-site search engine optimisation adequately on a website, the following need to be set up:

  • search engine friendly urls
  • a suitable robots.txt file
  • a unique page title for each page
  • a unique H1 heading for each page
  • a unique meta description for each page

Fortunately, Joomla can do all of the essential steps (1 to 6 below) out of the box without the need for any third party extensions.

1. Search Engine Friendly URLs

Using the File Manager in cPanel or an FTP client or similar, rename the htaccess.txt file in the root folder of the website to .htaccess.

Joomla SEO Settings Log in to the back-end of the Joomla website with an administrator account and go to System → Global Configuration → Site.

Configure the SEO Settings as follows:

  • Search Engine Friendly URLs = Yes
  • Use URL Rewriting = Yes
  • Add Suffix to URL = No
  • Unicode Aliases = No (usually)
  • Site Name in Page Titles = No

2. Global Meta Description

Log in to the back-end of the Joomla website with an administrator account and go to System → Global Configuration → Site.

Add a Site Meta Description.

The Site Meta Description is included on pages where no meta description is found for the article, category or menu item.

I don't usually worry about Meta Keywords any more as these are ignored by Google.

Global Meta Description for Joomla SEO Settings

3. robots.txt

The default robots.txt file in Joomla does not allow access for search engines to all the required CSS and JavaScript files. Google (for example) needs access to CSS and JavaScript files to check whether the website works well responsively or not.

I recommend the following customised robots.txt file for Joomla 3.x websites:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /administrator/
Disallow: /bin/
Disallow: /cache/
Disallow: /cli/
Allow: /components/*.css
Allow: /components/*.js
Disallow: /components/
Allow: /includes/*.css
Allow: /includes/*.js
Disallow: /includes/
Disallow: /installation/
Disallow: /language/
Allow: /layouts/*.css
Allow: /layouts/*.js
Disallow: /layouts/
Allow: /libraries/*.css
Allow: /libraries/*.js
Disallow: /libraries/
Disallow: /logs/
Allow: /modules/*.css
Allow: /modules/*.js
Disallow: /modules/
Allow: /plugins/*.css
Allow: /plugins/*.js
Disallow: /plugins/
Disallow: /tmp/

The robots.txt file is located in the root folder of the website and can be updated via the File Manager in cPanel or an FTP client or similar.

4. Page Titles

Enter a unique page title for each page.

The best practice for page titles is human readable text, up to around 65 characters, on one line, including keywords, branding and localisation with the main keywords first unless the brand is recognisable and in this case the brand should go first.

I tend to enter page titles in the menu option as H1 Headings and Meta Descriptions can also be entered here at the same time.

Page Title Settings for Joomla SEO

5. H1 Headings

Enter a unique H1 Heading for each page. There should be exactly one H1 Heading on each page and this can be supplemented with H2 and H3 headings if needed.

The best practice for H1 Headings is human readable text, 20 to 70 characters, on one line at the start of the article before any H2 or H3 etc headings and with the main keywords first.

I tend to enter H1 Headings in the menu option as Page Titles and Meta Descriptions can also be entered here at the same time. I am assuming that the Joomla Template displays the page heading as a H1 heading but this is template dependent and not always the case.

Note that blog articles don't necessarily have their own menu option and in this case, the H1 Heading can be enabled in the article.

H1 Heading settings for Joomla SEO

6. Meta Descriptions

Enter a unique Meta Description for each page.

The best practice for Meta Descriptions is human readable text, 155 to 160 characters, on one line including keywords, branding and localisation and with the main keywords first.

I tend to enter Meta Descriptions in the menu option as Page Titles and H1 Headings can also be entered here at the same time.

Note that blog articles don't necessarily have their own menu option and in this case, the Meta Description can be entered in the article.

I don't usually worry about Meta Keywords any more as these are ignored by Google.

Meta Description settings for Joomla SEO

7. SiteMap and Google Search Console

Ideally, a Sitemap should be created and submitted to Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools).

This makes it easier for Google to crawl your website and to make sure that all pages are being crawled and indexed.

Google also then has a way to notify you about any problems with the website such as crawl errors.

Creating a Google Search Console account is free and easy to do.

PHP 5.6 End of Life Implications for Joomla 1.5 and Joomla 2.5

PHP Logo

There will be no more security updates for PHP 5.6 after 31st December 2018.

Recommended Version of PHP for Joomla 3.x Websites

Joomla websites already running on Joomla 3.x should have their hosting updated to PHP 7.2 if it isn't already. (Security support for PHP 7.1 ends on 3rd December 2018).

PHP 5.6 End of Life Options for Joomla 1.5 and Joomla 2.5 Websites

Joomla 1.5 and Joomla 2.5 are not compatible with PHP 7. As hosting providers drop support for PHP 5, Joomla 1.5 and 2.5 will cease to function. It's not clear exactly when this will happen and it might depend on the timing and severity of security vulnerabilities discovered after security support for Joomla 5.6 ends at the end of 2018.

When your hosting company announces they are dropping support for PHP 5.6, a short term solution may be to move to another host that still supports PHP 5.6 but ideally you should be aiming to migrate any remaining Joomla 1.5 or Joomla 2.5 websites to Joomla 3.x or some other secure platform within the next few months.

Another option for a simple Joomla 1.5 or Joomla 2.5 website with few ongoing updates is to recreate the website as a static HTML website as I have done for Graham Woodhouse Conveyancing and similar. A static HTML website can still have all the basic essential features such as a responsive template, SSL, search engine friendly URLs, Google Analytics, search engine optimisation and a contact form. Additional benefits of static HTML websites are faster performance and little or no ongoing cost (apart from the domain name and hosting renewals).

What Version of PHP is My Website Running On?

There are a few ways for you to check what version of PHP your website is running on. For example:

  • use a free online tool such as the HTTP / HTTPS Header Check at http://www.webconfs.com/http-header-check.php
  • on Joomla 1.5 websites, log in to the back-end of the website and go to Help -> System Info
  • on Joomla 2.5 and Joomla 3.x websites, log in to the back-end of the website and go to Site -> System Information
  • log in to your cPanel (or similar) hosting control panel and click on "Select PHP Version" or similar

Migrate My Joomla Website

Migrate from Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 3.x

The cost of migrating from Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 3.x depends on the number of third party extensions and whether there are Joomla 3.x equivalents, whether there is an equivalent Joomla 3.x template and other factors. A straightforward Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 3.x migration typically takes at least five hours and costs from around $450.

Contact me for a quote.

Migrate from Joomla 2.5 to Joomla 3.x

The cost of migrating from Joomla 2.5 to Joomla 3.x depends on the number of third party extensions and whether there are Joomla 3.x equivalents, whether there is an equivalent Joomla 3.x template and other factors. A straightforward Joomla 2.5 to Joomla 3.x migration migration typically takes at least three hours and costs from around $250.

Contact me for a quote.

Static HTML Website vs Content Management System

In 2018, the most popular ways to build and publish a website are:

  1. static HTML websites
  2. content management systems such as Joomla or WordPress
  3. software as a service options such as Squarespace, Wix and Weebly

Options 1 and 2, where you can choose your own hosting provider, make the most sense to me because you stay in control of your website and your investment is protected. CMS suppliers, template suppliers or hosting companies can go out of business but you can quickly restore your website from a backup to alternative hosting if necessary and continue business as usual.

With option 3, the service provider can implement changes at any time with little or no or warning and changes may not suit your particular requirements. If you are not happy with the direction the service provider is heading or if the service provider goes out of business, there is often no easy way to export or migrate your website to a format that can easily be restored elsewhere. Relying on one particular service provider risks the future of your business and the risk increases with the amount invested.

Given that I only recommend and provide options 1 and 2 (static HTML websites and content management systems), these are the two options which I compare below.

 Static HTML WebsiteContent Management System
Typical initial cost AU$450 to AU$750 AU$450 to AU$2500
Annual maintenance cost nil from AU$390 per year
Annual hosting and domain name registration cost
from AU$50 per year from AU$100 per year
Page load performance Fastest Fast
Updates Requires basic understanding of HTML and FTP  Easy
Responsive template Yes Yes
SSL certificate Yes Yes
Analytics Yes Yes
Basic search engine optimisation such as search engine friendly urls, unique page titles, page headings and meta descriptions for each page Yes Yes
Basic features such as contact forms, slideshows and galleries Yes Yes
Advanced features such as booking systems, directories, e-commerce, custom forms, surveys, member only section of website, forums, event management and so on No Yes
 Examples

In summary:

Static HTML websites are best suited for simple websites where the website might only be updated a few times a year. Ongoing maintenance fees cost little or nothing.

Content management systems such as Joomla and WordPress are best suited for websites requiring more advanced features or for websites that are updated regularly such as every week or every month. Ongoing maintenance fees start at around AU$39 per month.

 

LiteSpeed Cache for Joomla

Joomla plus LiteSpeed

For websites hosted on LiteSpeed servers, LiteSpeed Cache dramatically improves performance.

LiteSpeed Cache has been available for a while and there are ways this can be enabled in Joomla by editing your .htaccess file.

Since May 2018, LiteSpeed Cache is now much easier to enable and configure on Joomla 3.x websites by installing the Joomla LiteSpeed Cache extension from LiteSpeed.

Installation

The install package is installed normally via the Joomla installer and installs a LiteSpeed Cache Component and a LiteSpeed Cache Plugin which are both enabled by default during the install. The default settings seem reasonable.

The LiteSpeed Cache has some server requirements. if you're not sure whether your server complies, it's fairly easy to download the Joomla LiteSpeed Cache extension, install and verify whether it's working or not.

Testing

I have tested the Joomla LiteSpeed Cache extension on a few hosting plans and so far have found it works on:

I will add to this list as I discover other web hosting plans this works with.

From the few examples I have tried so far, web pages are typically loading three times as fast with the LiteSpeed Cache enabled.

performance improvement

Clearing the LiteSpeed Cache

The LiteSpeed Cache can be purged via Components -> LiteSpeed Cache -> Purge All LiteSpeed Cache.

More Information

For more information, see the following:

Move My Website to a Better Web Hosting Company

Moving a website to a new web host typically takes a couple of hours or around $176 and includes:

  • backing up the current website
  • finding the most suitable web hosting company for your particular website within your budget
  • purchasing a new web hosting plan on your behalf
  • restoring the website to the new web host
  • updating the domain name to point to the new host
  • testing
  • forwarding any orphaned emails on the old host to the new host
  • optionally moving your domain name to the new service provider

Note that you will be moving to a better web hosting company and for most of my clients this is often a cheaper web hosting company so that the cost of the move is soon recovered.

Contact me to enquire about moving web hosts.